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Methanol-to-Propylene Technology

By Chemical Engineering |

Propylene has been established as an important part of the global olefins business, trailing only ethylene in terms of volume of product. Because inexpensive natural gas from shale in the U.S. is increasingly used as a feedstock for producing ethylene, lower quantities of three- and four-carbon olefins are available. For this reason, new chemical processes for on-purpose propylene using low-cost raw materials are gaining importance. An example of such a process is methanol-to-propylene (MTP) technology. The main raw material used in the MTP process is methanol that is produced from synthesis gas which, in turn, can be obtained in large-scale from natural gas or coal. The process The MTP process consists basically of two reaction steps: an initial one to dehydrate methanol to dimethyl ether (DME) on an aluminum oxide catalyst, and a second one to transform DME and methanol into a variety of olefins, ranging from ethylene to octenes. However, using a zeolite-based catalyst (ZSM-5), the process yields mainly propylene. A set of purification columns is necessary to obtain the polymer-grade (PG) propylene. Figure 1 illustrates a process similar to the ones licensed by Lurgi GmbH (the MTP process; Frankfurt am Main, Germany; www.lurgi.com)…
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